Morganton native Ellen Schilkowsky ’17 lives for science and animals.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ellen Schilkowsky: While I was born in Charlotte, I’ve called the small town of Morganton, located in good ol’ Burke County, North Carolina, home for over 10 years. I’m a graduate of R.L. Patton High School, where anyone and everyone knew my family, particularly my older brother John. John was, and still is, a phenomenal athlete and an incredible student. He competed in track on a national level and went on to attend an Ivy League school. It was sometimes difficult living in such a small town knowing that I was always being compared to John and his incredible success. And as proud as I am of my wonderful brother and his accomplishments, NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program was my chance to go somewhere where no one knew my name or the expectation that came with it. Since then, I’ve had to work hard to make myself more than just a number in a crowd of 30,000 students, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I first came to NC State, I was an undeclared engineering major who couldn’t really figure out why she had chosen to major in engineering. I received good marks in all of my classes, but I lacked passion for what I was studying and the only class I enjoyed was my one elective: Introduction to Companion Animal Science. The material fascinated me and I thrived in an environment where I was surrounded by people who understood what I loved and what I lived for: science and animals. After many long conversations with advisors, parents, friends, and probably a few kind strangers, I decided to change my major to animal science.
Now, almost three years after making that decision, I know it was the right one. I love my field of study and I love the many opportunities it has given me. I have received unwavering support from my family, friends, and the Goodnight Scholars Program during each step of this journey. As a result of that support, I’ve been able to participate in several research projects, receive valuable internship experience, explore other interests outside of animal science, and travel across the world. Four years ago, this small-town girl from Western North Carolina could not have fathomed the blessings and successes I have received in my time here at NC State. Now, with one year left in my undergraduate career, I look forward to the many more exciting opportunities and adventures that are sure to come.
Talk about some of your greatest accomplishments at NC State thus far.
In the three short years I’ve been a student at NC State, I’ve somehow found the time to pack in a lot of valuable learning experiences outside of the classroom. I’ve assisted with three research projects, one at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine and two in the Animal Science department. Each of these projects required a unique skill set and, as a result of my involvement, I’ve learned a wide variety of skills from database development and sample handling to drawing blood and performing necropsies. In addition to my research experience, I was lucky enough to secure a position as a Goodnight Ambassador for the 2015-2016 school year and again for the 2016-2017 school year. Being an ambassador for the Program is incredibly rewarding as it gives me the chance to show potential applicants and the public what makes this Program so great!
Lastly, I think that spending a semester abroad is currently my biggest accomplishment not only in my time at NC State, but in my life as a whole. With the help of an enrichment grant from the Goodnight Scholars Program, I spent the spring 2015 semester in Australia at the University of Sydney and had the time of my life. Studying and traveling in Australia helped me develop some key life skills. I can better handle stressful situations, I am more independent and confident in myself, and I’ve realized that pushing myself outside of my comfort zone allows for the greatest learning and oftentimes the greatest reward as well.
I think that spending a semester abroad is currently my biggest accomplishment not only in my time at NC State but in my life as a whole.
How would you describe your experience in the Goodnight Scholars Program?
The Goodnight Scholars Program has truly been a blessing since day one. It has given me wonderful friends, valuable guidance and it has helped me build great aspirations for the future. I love the fact that I leave each and every programming event feeling inspired and invigorated. I regularly attend the Faculty Dinner Series because no where else on this campus would I be able to meet and speak with so many gifted minds, hear about their successes and struggles, and also pick up a nugget or two of valuable advice!
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
To me, being a Goodnight Scholar means working each and every day to become the best version of yourself. That means being respectful and responsible members of society, striving for excellence in the classroom, and shaping ourselves to become experts and leaders in our fields.
What will the next few years look like for you?
Surprisingly, there are probably thousands of different ways you can use an animal science degree and some days I feel like I’ve considered almost every one of those ways as a potential future career. However, I keep coming back to veterinary medicine and, as of right now, I am a vet school hopeful for the Class of 2021. Pursuing a career in veterinary medicine will give me the opportunity to do everything I had ever loved: delve deep into a science-based curriculum, challenge myself mentally and physically, and find innovative solutions for complex problems all while working with creatures that I care deeply for.
What advice would give to a new or prospective Goodnight Scholars about being involved at NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program?
First and foremost, I would tell any incoming freshman to relax and be yourself. When you first arrive at college, everyone is nervous and trying to make friends. Lucky enough, the Goodnight Scholars Program provides quite a few ready-made friends so we come into school with a bit of a social advantage! That being said, EVERY freshman is told the same thing at Orientation: get involved, join a club, form a study group, volunteer, whatever. Just do something! College classes are difficult and it’s easy to get bogged down by studying and forget that these are supposed to be the best years of your life. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you should brush off the importance of doing well academically. Learn how to manage your time and strike a balance between academics, extracurricular activities and your social life. You may not get as much sleep as you would like, but it will definitely be worth it in the end!